Jamaican Photographer & Videographer Ricardo Horatio Nelson, On His Career and Inspirations
The end result is all that matters to some photographers. But for Ricardo Nelson, it's as much about the process as it is about the final product. Ricardo Nelson is a Jamaican photographer and videographer, and lighting technician based in LA and New York. His work has been featured in Vogue, People Magazine, LA Magazine, OUT, Bleu Magazine, GQ, The New York Times, Mashable and much more. In this interview our guest shares about his favourite projects, working with A-list celebrities, and his creative process.
When do you feel most creative?
My role as a photographer is to be the conduit for the self-expression of others’ artistry so I usually feel most creative when I’m on set or on location collaborating with others. Throughout my burgeoning career, I have had the honour of working with some world-class artists and creators, and watching someone who is really really good at what they do whether it's modelling, hair, make-up, set designer, etc, inspires me to my core. The fact that I get to add my signature to this process by capturing a moment in time is the golden cherry on top and why I do what I do.
What makes a great photo and when do you know you have a good picture?
When I first started out I mostly stuck to the classical rules of photography in regards to composition, the rules of thirds, and the general principles of light and shadow. However, I’ve learned over the years not to overthink what’s happening when I’m trying to make a good photograph and to be as present in the moment as possible since it seems that those moments in between when the thinking stops and your intuition takes the driver’s seat is when the great stuff comes out. Every photo is a story – and who wants to read a rulebook? I know when I’ve taken a good shot because I literally get goosebumps – that's when I know that we’ve got it. There’s electricity in the air when everyone looks at the screen and there's a collective gasp on set. Those are the moments I live for.
I know when I’ve taken a good shot because I literally get goosebumps and that's when I know that we’ve got it.
Where do you get your ideas?
I am a big art history buff so painting and sculpture, especially from the old masters like Rembrandt, Caravaggio Rubens, and contemporary artists such Kara Walker, Kerry James Marshall, and Kehinde Wiley, are a key part of my aesthetic references. However, if I’m totally honest, when it comes to ideas I don’t really worry too much about creating concepts and spurring the creative process. There are so many great ideas out there swimming and waiting to be plucked out and I've found that patience is a key tenet to having a good idea. I’d liken the process to that of a fisherman who is shown up by the river with all his gear sitting patiently to see what comes to take a bite. Sometimes you catch a big one and sometimes the hook is empty but either way, there’s a quiet confidence that comes knowing that just showing up every day is all that matters.
You have worked with many celebrities. Can you share your most memorable experiences?
I have been lucky enough to work with some very talented people but I must say my favorite moment was a shoot we did with the legendary Bette Midler. We shot on location in her New York City apartment and when she came down the stairs in all her glory it was absolutely magical. She had such control over every intonation that even before she stepped in front of the camera I felt like I was in the presence of the Muses of Greek Philosophy in the days of the old. I remember thinking “So that’s what being in the presence of a true muse feels like”.
What was the creative process for your recent work with Megan Fox?
Honestly, when you work with a megawatt beauty and talent like Megan Fox and world-class artists like Andrew Fitzsimons Hair and makeup artist Ash Holm, draped by her fashion stylist Maeve Reilly, it’s easy. The “creative process” just becomes a group of talented, loving people showing up to work and doing their best at what they love and the result of that is always something stunning. Last time we knew we wanted to allude to Old Hollywood 1930’s glamour but with a contemporary flair and it came together flawlessly. I am very truly honored that they considered me to be a part of their team and I can’t wait for you to see what we come up with next!
What's been your favorite project so far?
As a freelancer, I have the benefit of going to different places, meeting and working with new and interesting people, and it's like the first day of school every time so it might sound corny but my favorite project usually is the one I’m currently working on. I'm always learning new things and trying new techniques on each project I take on and that’s what keeps my insatiable appetite for creating in check. That being said since moving to LA part-time I thoroughly enjoy shooting Khloe with Andrew and Ash because she’s so hilarious and effervescent that I always feel like I’m coming from a raucous artist’s den. That juxtaposed with work I’ve done with PETA and LA magazine with friend and collaborator Greg Gary holds a special place in my heart. I am truly blessed.
What difficulties did you encounter as a photographer and how did you overcome them?
When you’re a photographer you are not just out there taking pictures – you have to wear many hats. You have to be your own booking agent, manager, accountant, editor, and most importantly your own cheerleader. However, I’d say the biggest difficulty I had started out was being humble enough to ask for help with all these endeavours.
Sometimes as artists we tend to take pride in doing everything ourselves and it took me far too long to learn that there’s no harm in asking for little help. Humanity needs artists and people instinctively want to help and nurture creativity and creative people because what we do inspires them. Just ask!
Any advice for aspiring photographers?
To anyone starting out, I say please be careful with comparing yourself and your work to that of other people. When I first started I was so intimidated by just how much good work and people are already out there. I was like “Where is my place in all this ? Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say ?”, but through practicing self-love and appreciating my singularity I’ve come to realize my voice matters. We all have the capacity to tell our billions of stories and although we each have our own path what YOU have to say will remind us of our own page within the volumes of the human condition. I can’t wait to see yours...
I asked myself “Why would anyone want to listen to what I have to say ?” But through practicing self-love and appreciating my singularity I’ve come to realize my voice matters.
Ricardo Horatio Nelson:
Instagram: @ricardohoratio | Email: email@example.com